Sunday 31 May 2015

Vida Steam Mop review

Vida Appliances recently sent us through a couple of their products to try out, including their Steam Mop. I love the idea of steam cleaning because all you need is water, making it an ecological and economical solution.

Inside the box, you get various elements (central unit, mop head and handle) that are all easy to fit together without any need for the instruction manual.

You use the drawstring to attach the microfibre cloth to the mop head. This can be cleaned in the washing machine after use.

The water reservoir is easy to fill up with the enclosed jug.

There is an easy-to-read gauge on the reservoir to show you level of water.

The telescopic handle can be set to the height you need for comfortable cleaning.

It only takes 18 seconds to warm up (just enough time to put the filling jug away !) and you're ready to go. It's great for removing stains and general grime from hard floors (like lino or wood floors) - it cut through muddy paw prints, spilt chocolate milk and general muck with no effort at all - and can also be used to refresh carpets and curtains (in theory, but I admit I haven't tried this). You do need to vacuum first though because it won't pick up dust or grit. The swivelling head makes it easy to get into the corners or under the furniture. I love the fact that you can kill 99% of household germs and bacteria using nothing but tap water, but I must admit, I do miss the fresh, fruity fragrances of my usual cleaning products. To compensate, I always spray a bit of air freshener in the room once I've finished steam cleaning, to give it that "just cleaned" smell !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £49.99

Disclosure : We received the product in order to write an honest review.

Madhouse diaries : Festival of the sea

It was a pretty full-on, action-packed bank holiday weekend here in Dunkirk last week, followed by an equally hectic 5-day work trip to Poland. After visiting the Little Ships and the vintage military vehicles parade to honour the 70th anniversary of Operation Dynamo and the Evacuation of Dunkirk, it was time to check out the annual Festival of the Sea.

As you can tell from the photos, we went on both the Saturday and the Sunday.

The kids had great fun floating around in Dunkirk marina in a big pedalo.

It was a great way of getting a close-up view of the Duchesse Anne three-master, which Juliette visited with her class a few months ago.

Meanwhile Pierre had spotted lots of little jellyfish in the water.

It wasn't too busy so they managed to have three goes on the pedaloes.

Once back on dry land, we headed over to a tent that was holding a junk modelling workshop.

There were lots of boxes filled with rubbish that had been washed up on the beach or recycled (and cleaned !) that you could use to make little boats.

I wasn't really sure what they'd manage to make with beer cans, bubble wrap and other unlikely odds and ends but there was a big paddling pool filled with other boats to give us some ideas.

Juliette discovered that empty drinks cans (with the hole sealed up with sellotape) make great floaters to help the boats balance.

Pierre took great delight in attaching a doll's leg to his as a flag mast !

Even Sophie joined in and made one too !

Time to put them in the water - all three of them floated ! This is a great activity that we'll be trying out again during the holidays.

It was a lovely couple of days splashing about in the water and even the sun put in an appearance.

Sunday weigh-in : Here comes June !

On my last weigh-in, I signed off saying: " I know in advance that Poland will not be kind to the scales - two three course meals in a restaurant and a cooked breakfast every day for five days will take its toll !" Well, I was right but I enjoyed every minute, discovered lots of new Polish recipes and had some great experiences. Today the scales flashed up a +1.3kg gain - I was actually expecting a lot worse ! Time to get back on track -  I've signed up for Juneathon, which should be extra motivation to get moving every day in June (although pretty tough too as it's a busy month work wise).

Positives of the week

- Time to get back on track - after all that overeating, I'm craving fruit, salad and soup ! I'll also get back into SlimFast ready-to-drink shakes for lunch when I'm at work. Motivation is at a peak :)

- Juneathon kicks off tomorrow. Time to get off my bum !

Current targets 

Last week's target : Enjoy Poland and sod the scales ! (done !)

This week's targets : Get back to Wii Fit runs (aim for 2 x 30 mins) but it'll be a busy-busy week at work. Try to do something every day for Juneathon.

Short-term targets 21kg to lose sounds a lot but breaking it down, aiming for 1kg a week, that's only about 5 months - plenty of time for heading off to Turkey in August !

first target, get my "weight to lose" badge down into the 40's (it's currently on 51lb) (done),
 second goal - get back to 85.9kg, my pre-xmas weight (done )
third goal : get my "kg lost" badge back into double figures 
fourth goal : get my "weight loss" badge higher than my "still to go" badge
fifth goal : get back into my (smallest) bright blue jeans comfortably
sixth goal : get back to 77kg - my lowest weight since my pregnancies

Longer-term targets :  Hit my target weight of 68kg. 

STILL TO GO : 18.2kg

Feel free to add your weightloss posts to my weekly linkie - it's great to see how everyone else has been getting on and give each other support and encouragement. You can even grab the linkie code and add it to your own blog if you like. :)

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Saturday 30 May 2015

Globecooking recipe : Zurek - sour rye soup (Poland)

Yesterday I told you about eating Kielbasa sausages on a mock pirate ship in Gdynia harbour - well, this was the starter and I think it is probably the most delicious and satisfying bowl of soup I've ever eaten. The Polish hosts said it was a typical Polish soup and everybody had to at least taste it - in the end, everyone devoured every spoonful and mopped up the last drops with bread !

The name Zurek comes from zur (sour) because the base for this soup is made by fermenting rye flour with water. To me, it didn't taste sour though - more like it had a hint of mustard in it. I'm not sure what was floating on the top but it's not in the ingredients list - maybe a hint of pesto or basil, but I'm not sure.

 Zurek - sour rye soup

ingredients :

300g root vegetables, peeled and chopped (carrots, parsnips, celery root, leeks ...)
500g potatoes, peeled and diced
6 cups water
bay leaves
250g Polish sausage (kielbasa biala)
2 cups ryemeal sour (3/4 cup rye flour 2 cups water, boiled and cooled to lukewarm)
1 heaped tbsp flour mixed with 4 tbsp water
1 clove of garlic, crushed, with 1/2tsp salt
3 hard-boiled eggs

Mix together the rye flour with lukewarm water, pour it into a glass jar or ceramic bowl that is large enough for the mixture to expand, cover with cheesecloth or a clean tea towel and leave in a warm place for 4 to 5 days. This should make 2 cups or enough for the soup. (This can be kept, covered, in the fridge for up to a week.)

Peel and chop the root vegetables and cook them for 30 minutes in a large soup pot. Add the sausage, bring back to the boil, reduce the heat and cook for another 30 minutes. Remove the sausage from the soup, slice when cool enough to handle, and reserve. Strain the stock through a sieve, pressing on the vegetables to extract as much flavour as possible. Discard the vegetables, skim the fat off the stock, and return the stock to the soup pot.

Whisking constantly, add the flour-water mixture, sliced sausage and garlic-salt paste. Bring the soup to the boil then reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender. Serve with half a hard-boiled egg in each bowl, and rye bread on the side.

*** Don't miss my country-by-country globecooking recipe index ! ***

Fancy trying out some more Polish cuisine? How about Bigos,Pirogi or Golabki?

Cuddle Fairy

Friday 29 May 2015

Giveaway #483 : Win plants to #SetYourWorldOnFlowers - closing date 12/6

How's this for a fabulous way of saying it with flowers ?! One flower-obsessed mum in Newcastle got creative last week with the help of new flower company Set Your World On Flowers, covering the entire front of her Newcastle home with blue Callies that with just some water will become blooms and last for 40 days, to reveal to friends and family that she is due to welcome a baby boy this Summer.

Amanda said: "The reveal was incredibly beautiful and it's going to get ever more spectacular once all of the buds blossom – I couldn't have asked for anything so special. I'm so excited to be a mum and so grateful I could let my friends and family know about my bouncing boy in an exciting and unforgettable way, I love flowers so this is just perfect for me!"

These particular flowers were perfect for the surprise as they will bloom brightly throughout the whole of summer with just a drop of water each day, as a lovely reminder for Amanda and her family that the baby is on his way."

Set Your World On Flowers is a new flower brand, with a mission to prove that it's not only the green-fingered that can grow great results. All of Set Your World On Flowers' blooms are fuss-free and grow with little TLC, offering a gardening experience like no other and proving you don't have to be a floral fanatic to love blooms. With just a drop of water, the flowers will bloom from spring through summer to make your home and garden a living colour show this year.

Each Set Your World On Flowers flower is grown using a top-secret formula that gives each pot the good stuff it needs to stay bold and beautiful from now until September. This formula is being patented as it really works and is a secret to keep. The flowers thrive whatever the weather and, even though they're happiest outside, they can be planted anywhere!

For anybody who wants to decorate their own homes, the bloomsare available in selected Waitrose stores until June and include:

·      The Callie (Purple, Yellow, Light-Blue, Star-Pink)
·      The Geri (Dark-Red, Hot-Pink, Rose-Splash, Lavender-Rose, Red-Splash)
·      The Petti (Lavender-Vein, White-Vein, Star-Rose, Picotee-Blue)

To keep up to date with Set Your World On Flowers or for details about where to buy, follow @SetYourWorldOn on Twitter or @SetYourWorldOnFlowers on Instagram or visit

Set Your World On Flowers have kindly offered to send ten pots of beautiful flowers to one lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. To be in with a chance of winning, fill in your entries in the Rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 12/6/15

T & C's : Entries close at midnight on the closing date. Winners will be selected with a random number generator and announced on facebook, twitter and in the giveaway post subject line. Please note, you will be contacted by email and/or twitter and if I haven't heard from you after a week, I'll have to pick another winner. Prizes will be sent out by the companies or their PR directly to winners. Madhouse Family Reviews cannot be held responsible for any prizes that go astray !

Globecooking recipe : Kielbasa & Polish Coleslaw (Poland)

Kielbasa is probably the most well-known of Polish sausages - the name actually means sausage in Polish - and eating them, freshly grilled, on a (fake) pirate ship in Gdynia harbour will rank as one of the gastronomical highs of my work trip to Poland. They're salty, juicy and slightly smoky - utterly delicious, whether they're served with chips or baked potato.

Both options came with a fantastic version of coleslaw, containing not just the usual white cabbage and carrot in mayonnaise but also very finely sliced radish and cucumber. I also discovered that Polish mustard isn't hot at all - I usually don't like mustard but I couldn't stop dipping my kielbasa in this one !

*** Don't miss my country-by-country globecooking recipe index ! ***

Fancy trying out some more Polish cuisine? How about Bigos, Pirogi or Golabki?

Dragons and Fairy Dust

Thursday 28 May 2015

Madhouse diaries : Fossil-hunting at Cap Blanc Nez

Just next to Calais, there is a lovely beach surrounded rolling hillsides that are perfect for long walks. 

On a sunny bank holiday Monday, we decided to head for the beach itself rather than the clifftops though.

 It was such a clear day that we could easily see the white cliffs of Dover on the horizon, as well as the numerous ferries crossing the Channel.

Down by the water's edge, there is a wide band of sand but the pebbles up near the cliffs were what interested Sophie the most, as she was hoping to find some fossils in the rocks that have fallen down from the cliffs.

When our science teacher takes his classes on field trips to this stretch of beach, he always manages to find some so I knew they must be there.

We were all on a mission to see who would manage to find anything even vaguely resembling a fossil  first !

It's often quite hard to tell what's a fossil and what isn't, but this looks like it could be one.

Sophie thinks this is a fossilised starfish or sea urchin - she could be right, but I have no idea !

There were lots of these stones with weird spirals and swirls on them.

Ahh, I bet there WAS a fossil here at one point !

Aha, that's more like it - an ammonite imprinted in the rock face.

This would have been a complete fossil if it hadn't broken in half.

This looks like a fossilised tentacle or fish bone.

Pierre got very excited when he nearly stepped on this one !

More tentacles or fish bones.

When we'd had enough of fossil-hunting, it was time to partake in the time honoured tradition of lobbing great rocks in the water to make the biggest splash !

Don't let go, Pierre (which is apparently what I did once when I was little and gave my mum a black eye ! Oops !)

I'm sure we'll be back another day to look for more fossils, now that we know they're there for the picking !

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 

Dragons and Fairy Dust
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